BBC’s Knell amplifies PA narrative, mainstreams BDS on late-night BBC Radio 5

On March 27th BBC Radio 5 live’s late night show ‘Up All Night’ featured an item with the BBC’s Jerusalem Bureau’s Yolande Knell. The programme can be heard here for a limited period of time and the relevant section begins from around 37:15. Up All Night

Presenter Rhod Sharp introduces the item:

“US Secretary of State John Kerry interrupted his trip to Europe on Wednesday to rush to Israel. He wanted to urge the Palestinians and Israelis to extend their peace talks which seem to be faltering maid fears that Israel may scrap plans to free a final batch of Palestinian prisoners. With more on this, I’ve been speaking to Yolande Knell on the West Bank.”

Kerry of course flew to Amman in Jordan – not to Israel.

Yolande Knell opens:

“He broke away from this trip – President Obama’s talks in Europe on the crisis in the Ukraine. I think the fact he’s done this just underscores the seriousness of the threat to the peace talks that he sees. Ahm…the peace talks of course going on between Israel and the Palestinians – a process in which he has invested so much energy already – and so what he did, he broke away…ahm…and came to Amman just yesterday and he is supposed to have had talks last night – after having a meeting with the King of Jordan – with the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. We were told he was going to have a working dinner with him and he was supposed to speak to the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by video conference or by phone as well.

And what US officials say is that his aim is to narrow the gaps in peace talks but really, if you speak to either side, they’ll say there’s been little real progress on the core issues but what’s thrown these talks into crisis right now…ahm…because they’re supposed to go on until the end of April – that was…when the US managed to broker a return to the negotiating table last year. But now we have the scheduled release of the fourth and final batch of more than a hundred Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails scheduled for this weekend. It was part of a deal that Israel struck with the Palestinians to get the peace talks restarted and what the Palestinians agreed was in return they wouldn’t take action against Israel at the UN…ahm… through the UN bodies to which they got access after their status was upgraded. And so…ah…really now Israel is saying it doesn’t want to go ahead with this prisoner release at the moment. There’s been talk of how the Palestinians should…ah…reach a framework agreement. We understand that the Americans are supposed to be putting a framework agreement to both sides before this happens. Ahm…and the Palestinians saying that if the prisoner release doesn’t happen as scheduled then they will perhaps go to the UN, take other means and the talks could very well fall apart.”

Knell makes no effort to inform listeners that the prisoner releases were from the very beginning tied to progress in the talks – which she admits has not been forthcoming. Neither of course does she bother to mention the incitement and glorification of terrorism which was seen during the Palestinian Authority organised celebrations of the three previous tranches or the cash hand-outs awarded to the released terrorists.

Sharp then asks:

RS: “Well but why would Israel not release the prisoners as scheduled?”

YK: “Well, these prisoner releases have been particularly divisive – in fact for both sides. What you’re talking about here is long-term Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. Many of them have been convicted of serious offences like murdering Israelis so Israelis see them as convicted terrorists. On the Palestinian side, these are people who have sacrificed their lives in some way, with the long prison sentences that they’ve been through, for the nationalist cause.”

Knell’s promotion of the notion of terrorists convicted in a court of law as ‘heroes’ is of course not new: such portrayal was a hallmark of her reporting of previous prisoner releases and is part and parcel of the BBC’s policy of presentation of a morally equivalent view of terrorism – in some parts of the world.

She goes on:

“So already you have something which is a very emotive topic and then we’ve had Israeli families objecting to these releases – they’ve been staging protests – and what we’ve seen with all of the previous batches is that…ahm…those opposed within the Israeli coalition government, these have helped push through settlement announcements…ahm…which have threatened to undermine the peace talks repeatedly each time there has been a prisoner release. Ahm…and then you’ve got different people speaking out – different politicians – the deputy defence minister Danny Danon – a member of Mr Netanyahu’s Likud party – threatening to resign if this prisoner release went ahead.”

In other words, audiences are herded towards the view that Palestinian incitement and glorification of terrorism does not “undermine the peace talks”, whereas Israeli building tenders most certainly do. Notably too, Knell completely neglects to inform listeners of the PA’s demand that in this particular tranche, Israel release convicted terrorists who are not residents of Palestinian controlled areas, but Israeli citizens.

Knell continues:

“Another thing that the Israelis seem to be worried about is they want assurances that Mr Abbas won’t walk away from the peace talks straight after this prisoner release because – as I say – if you speak to the Palestinians they’ll say that there has been no progress on the core issues on Jerusalem, the issue of Palestinian refugees, settlements and borders; the things that they want to talk about. They say that Israel has side-tracked the talks talking about the Jordan Valley….ahm….the Palestinians say they won’t give up control of their eastern border of the West Bank and Israel’s saying they want to keep a military presence there for security reasons.”

Beyond the fact that Knell has invented a Palestinian “eastern border” which does not exist, clearly her presentation of discussions on the subject of the Jordan Valley – in other words a discussion about borders – as having “side-tracked” the talks is an obvious and partial promotion of the PA’s narrative.  She goes on:

“And then there’s this other issue which has been so thorny as well, about recognising Israel as a Jewish state – that’s another one of Israel’s demands.”

The Israeli demand is of course for PA recognition of Israel as the Jewish state – not a Jewish state and as has been the case in all previous BBC coverage of this topic, no attempt whatsoever is made to inform audiences of the reasons for Israel’s demand and its significance as regards an end to future claims and hence its role in bringing about an end to the conflict. Sharp then says:

RS: “Let’s turn to the Arab League. Ah…here’s a thought: the Arab League of course has seemed a bit more modern in recent times but Arab leaders did what they’ve been quite used to doing in the past.”

Knell’s reply includes further promotion of the PA narrative through – inter alia – use of the offensive term “Judaisation of Jerusalem” and the depiction of Arab Israelis as “1948 Palestinians”.

YK: “Well, actually it all relates back to this Jewish state issue and it was one of the few points that the Arab leaders could all agree on after this two-day annual summit that’s just taken place in Kuwait. And the statement they ended with has actually strengthened Mr Abbas’ hand I think in many ways and made Mr Kerry’s job potentially more difficult because they came out with a statement saying that they totally rejected…ahm…. the call to consider Israel a Jewish state and then they also talked about other things like Jewish settlements, the Judaisation of Jerusalem – these kind of things. Ahm…they’d heard from President Abbas at the beginning of the summit when he said that Palestinians reject even discussing this issue of a Jewish state because for them it’s all caught up with the fate of Palestinian refugees who were forced out of their homes, who fled in 1948 when Israel became a state. Ahm….and also it’s about the rights of Arab Israelis – the 20% of the population of Israel who are these 1948 Palestinians as they’re also known – what of their rights if the Palestinians recognise Israel as a Jewish state? So it is a very complicated subject and that’s one that the Arab League countries – 22 of them – seem to have united on in terms of backing President Abbas and his stance.”

Knell makes no effort to explain to listeners that Palestinian refugees were not for the most part “forced out of their homes” but in many cases were urged to leave by the five Arab armies which instigated a war Knell does not apparently find it necessary to even mention. She neglects to inform audiences that PA recognition of Israel as the Jewish state in no way presents any kind of threat to the rights of Arab Israelis and she fails to make clear the ‘end game’ of the Palestinian demand for ‘right of return’ of refugees.

After Knell speaks about other Arab League related issues, Sharp says:

“Let’s turn away from politics. Well we think we’re turning away from politics to the world of entertainment but it seems that they have got awfully mixed up here. Why are the Rolling Stones in trouble?”

YK: “Well, they’re not in trouble with everybody. Certainly the Israelis are delighted with them at the moment because this week the Rolling Stones were officially booked basically to perform their first ever concert in Israel. It’s gonna be on the 4th of June we’re told in Tel Aviv and later today the tickets are expected to go on sale online and big prices: well over a hundred British pounds up to about 500 British pounds I’m told. Ahm…but yes there have been all sorts of puns in the Israeli press. After months – even years- of speculation, Israelis can finally get some satisfaction it said in the Jerusalem Post. But the people who are outraged are the Palestinians and supporters of the Palestinians because of course there is this call for a cultural boycott of Israel and protest at the occupation of Palestinian land by Israel with the occupation being seen as illegal under international law.”

Besides erroneously presenting the BDS movement as “supporters of the Palestinians” rather than a politically motivated campaign to delegitimise and dismantle Israel, Knell mainstreams the so-called “cultural boycott”, promotes the partisan narrative of “Palestinian land” and fails to inform listeners of the existence of alternative views regarding “international law”, in clear breach of BBC editorial guidelines on accuracy and impartiality.

Not for the first time by any means we see Yolande Knell acting as a mouthpiece for unadulterated amplification of the PA narrative in this radio interview. The type of terminology she chooses to use, her presentation of a morally equivalent view of terrorism and her mainstreaming of BDS are part and parcel of the promotion of that narrative.

Notably too, this interview joins numerous other BBC reports in failing to even try to clarify to BBC audiences the rationale behind the Israeli demand for recognition of Israel as the Jewish state and why the issue of that Palestinian – and wider Arab – recognition is crucial to the success of any agreement.

With the negotiations having reached such a critical point, it is vital that the BBC adhere to its public purposes and begin clarifying that issue to audiences.  

Related Articles:

BBC already setting the scene for ME talks collapse

BBC audiences are not being updated on ME talks

BBC continues to self-censor on the issue of PA recognition of Israel

Accuracy and impartiality issues in BBC report on Abbas White House visit

BBC’s Knell promotes already debunked claims in ‘Jewish state’ article

 

Another capital offence at the BBC?

Less than a year after the BBC website’s sports section wiped Israel’s capital city off the map in its Olympics coverage  (whilst simultaneously channelling its inner Sykes-Picot and allocating “East Jerusalem” to “Palestine”) and almost seven months since the operator of the BBC News Twitter account relocated Israel’s capital to the Mediterranean coast, it seems that the BBC is at it again. 

Tweet TA

The programme concerned is BBC Radio 5’s ‘Five Live Sport on Saturday, June 8th 2013. Readers with access to BBC iPlayer can hear the broadcast here

5 live sport 8 6

So here’s a reminder to Darren Fletcher and the rest of the Five Live Sport team from the Mayor of Tel Aviv:

And here’s another from the UK’s Press Complaints Commission:

PCC TA

BBC tones down British MP’s comments on Jews and the Holocaust

As readers may have heard, the Liberal Democrat MP for Bradford East – David Ward – made a reprehensible comparison between the Holocaust and the Arab-Israeli conflict just days before Holocaust Memorial Day is marked in his country and others on January 27th

The Commentator, which first broke the story, has the details:

“British Member of Parliament David Ward has issued a statement to the ‘Asian Image’ magazine, juxtaposing the Middle East Conflict with the Holocaust.

As Holocaust Memorial Day is to be observed on Sunday, the Liberal Democrat MP, upon signing the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Book of Commitment in the House of Commons, stated:

“Having visited Auschwitz twice – once with my family and once with local schools – I am saddened that the Jews, who suffered unbelievable levels of persecution during the Holocaust, could within a few years of liberation from the death camps be inflicting atrocities on Palestinians in the new State of Israel and continue to do so on a daily basis in the West Bank and Gaza.” “

Ward later gave a statement to the Commentator in which he said:

“The Holocaust was one of the worst examples in history man’s inhumanity to man. When faced with examples of atrocious behaviour, we must learn from them. It appears that the suffering by the Jews has not transformed their views on how others should be treated.”

The situation worsened as Ward gave an interview to Sky News and another interview with him emerged from last November – during Operation Pillar of Cloud – on BBC Radio Leeds, in which he said:

“If all the illegal settlements were vacated and the land given back there wouldn’t be any rocket attacks.”

For more details of, and commentary on, the incident see the Telegraph, the Commentator, Paul David Evans, the Jewish Chronicle, the Independent, Harry’s Place and the Guido Fawkes blog

So how did the BBC relate to the story? Well, it interviewed Ward on Radio 5 live (which can be heard via the link below) – although with nowhere near the tenacity of the Sky News interviewer. It also published an article about the incident on the UK Politics page of the BBC News website. There, it stated that: [emphasis added]

“He accused “the Jews” in Israel of “inflicting atrocities on Palestinians… on a daily basis”.

Ward 2

Except he didn’t. Ward referred to “the Jews” in general. 

So why did the BBC think it appropriate to try to tone down and ‘contextualise’ Ward’s abhorrent remarks? 

Update: read Chas Newkey Burden’s commentary on the subject here.

Update 2: David Ward has now issued an apology. The BBC has published another article on the subject in which it repeats the use of the same phrasing employed in its first report.  

Ward 3

Likewise, the BBC News Twitter account also phrased Tweets promoting its latest report in a manner which clearly suggests that Ward’s remarks related to Israelis instead of “the Jews” as a collective.  

BBC News tweets 26 1

Once again, one must ask why the BBC appears to be trying so hard to blur the antisemitic nature of Ward’s remarks and why in doing so, it seems to be unaware that “drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis” is also defined as antisemitism under the EUMC working definition

The strange story of a complaint to the BBC

Readers no doubt remember the report carried here at BBC Watch about an edition of the BBC Radio 5 programme ‘5 live Drive’ from November 14th in which host Peter Allen said: 

“We’re all aware of the arguments that a lot of rockets have been fired at Israel and that the retaliation was both necessary and just, but from the outside it just looks like part of this never-ending cycle of violence. It won’t stop anything, this, will it?”

“Yeah – but it’s not just this man [Jabari] who’s been killed. There’s a lot of innocent people getting killed at the same time.”

“Yeah – but nevertheless, if you count it up – the casualties – it’s those inside Gaza who are suffering rather than those inside Israel.”

“Yeah. You can count up the casualties. I’m sorry, you know, but the outside world would count up the casualties and see – you know – that Israel always wreaks its revenge and the revenge it takes is greater than the original – erm – suffering in this war. It does it all the time.”

One member of the license-fee paying public decided to complain to the BBC about that programme and also had the presence of mind to save a screenshot of his complaint. 

complaint Peter Allen

After having received the following reply to his complaint, that member of the public contacted BBC Watch and gave us permission to reproduce it here. [emphasis added]

Dear Mr XXXX

Thank you for contacting us regarding BBC News’ coverage of the recent escalation of violence in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

 We understand you feel our coverage has shown bias in favour of Israel’s actions in Gaza. We have received a wide range of feedback about our coverage of this upsurge in violence. Bearing in mind the pressure on resources, the response below strives to address the majority of concerns raised but we apologise in advance if not all of the specific points you have mentioned have been answered in the manner you prefer.

BBC News strives to report in an impartial, accurate and fair manner and we believe this has been the case with our coverage of the recent violence in Gaza and Israel.

 Since Israel launched ‘Operation Pillar of Defense’ on November 14 2012, our correspondents on the ground in Gaza – Jon Donnison, Wyre Davies and Chief of the BBC News Jerusalem Bureau Paul Danahar, have detailed the level of destruction caused by Israeli strikes from air and sea on the area. Our main news bulletins on BBC One and Radio 4 have focused on the loss of life in Gaza. For example, the first story during the BBC One bulletin at 2200 on 18 November read as follows:

 “International pressure for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas is mounting after the deadliest day of violence in the region so far. Reports say 26 people were killed in Gaza by Israeli airstrikes – and more rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel – including two shot down over Tel Aviv by Israel’s “iron dome” defence system.”

 Reports from Gaza have also explained the level of Palestinian civilian casualties, in particular the deaths of women and children. Jon Donnison’s report during the News at Ten on 14 November explained that:

 “For the people of Gaza tonight it looked like war. And as in most wars, civilians, caught up in the violence.”

 He went on to add:

 “Gaza’s hospitals are expected to face a busy night, with more casualties this evening, among them children and at least one baby.”

 We have seen reports which looked at Israel’s tactic of deploying strikes in a heavily overpopulated urban setting, Wyre Davies’ report for the News at Six on 19 November said:

 “This was a clear message from Israel that anything or anyone associated with the militants is a legitimate target. Israel has, though, struggled to explain this huge bombing yesterday. Military sources told an Israeli newspaper the house was hit by mistake. Israel now says the bombing was deliberate, but their target, a senior Hamas commander, may not have been there, but at least ten people, including four children, were there and were killed. Israel justifies these attacks in urban areas because it says the militants hide among civilian populations, and the problem with such a policy is that civilians are always at risk.” 

 Our main news bulletins have also heard live accounts from presenters Lyse Doucet, with further analysis from Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen. Such analysis has looked at the wider political context of the conflict, including the impending election in Israel, the relationship with a new Egypt and the effects of Israel’s blockade on Gaza. We have continued to follow diplomatic efforts to reach a truce, featuring live press conferences on the BBC News Channel from interlocutors such as the Muslim Brotherhood leaders in Egypt and the Arab League.

 We have also heard from a wide range of Palestinian and Arab commentators on the BBC News Channel and during flagship programmes such as radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme. This has included Jihad Haddad, adviser to President Morsi, Abdel al-Bari Atwan, the editor in chief of Al-Quds Al Arabi, Adel Darwish -commentator on Middle East affairs and Dr Omar Ashour from the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, Exeter University

 In hearing from these voices and from our own correspondents, we believe we have explored the political, military and humanitarian aspects of this recent conflict. We will continue to strive to report on the story in an impartial manner.

 We’d also like to assure you we’ve registered your complaint on our audience log.  This is an internal report of audience feedback which we compile daily and is available for viewing by all our staff.  This includes all news editors and reporters, along with our senior management.  It ensures that your points, along with all other comments we receive, are considered across the BBC.

 Thanks again for taking the time to contact us.

 Kind Regards

BBC Complaints

Beyond the fact that absolutely no attempt was made to address the substance of the complaint and the obviously bizarre ‘Through the Looking Glass’-style inversion of a complaint about Peter Allen’s expression of anti-Israel bias into a complaint about pro-Israel bias (with some interesting responses),  this section of the reply is notable:

“We’d also like to assure you we’ve registered your complaint on our audience log.”

One cannot but wonder how many other complaints are being registered by the BBC as the exact opposite of what they actually are and how that influences the reliability of the BBC’s complaints statistics and the resulting appraisals of its own performance.   

Yet again we see the problematic nature of self-monitoring by the BBC and an overly complicated and obviously inefficient complaints process – which apparently even BBC staff have trouble navigating. 

 

BBC’s Peter Allen: “Israel always wreaks its revenge”

Several people have written to us (thank you all) to bring the following BBC radio broadcast to our attention.

On Wednesday, November 14th 2012, at 16:00 GMT, BBC Radio 5 broadcast an edition of its programme ‘5 live Drive’ with presenters Peter Allen and Anna Foster which can be heard here.  

Sections of the broadcast dealt with the subject of Operation Pillar of Cloud, which had commenced less than two hours previous to the start of the programme.

At the beginning (01:18), one can hear the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Wyre Davies talking about the “targeted assassination” of Ahmed Jabari and speculating as to the likelihood of further “assassinations”. 

The correct term is of course ‘targeted killing’ – which is the intentional killing of a targeted person who is taking part in terrorism. Assassination, on the other hand, is defined as “to murder (a usually prominent person) by sudden or secret attack often for political reasons”. 

In electing to use the word ‘assassination’, Davies is clearly attempting to impart an air of illegality to the action of targeting the head of the Izz ad Din al Qassam brigades terrorist militia.

At around two hours into the broadcast, one can hear a Mr El Hadad from Gaza being interviewed by the BBC without any context whatsoever being given for the strikes in the Gaza Strip which he describes. El Hadad is also allowed to make an entirely speculative remark about the supposed connection of the timing of the operation to the upcoming Israeli elections: a theme which the BBC has been promoting vigorously throughout its coverage of the current operation and before. 

At 2:05:37 Peter Allen conducts an interview with Gil Hoffman of the Jerusalem Post. Bearing in mind that Operation Pillar of Cloud had at that time been underway for less than four hours, here are Allen’s ‘contributions’ to the interview:

“We’re all aware of the arguments that a lot of rockets have been fired at Israel and that the retaliation was both necessary and just, but from the outside it just looks like part of this never-ending cycle of violence. It won’t stop anything, this, will it?”

“Yeah – but it’s not just this man [Jabari] who’s been killed. There’s a lot of innocent people getting killed at the same time.”

“Yeah – but nevertheless, if you count it up – the casualties – it’s those inside Gaza who are suffering rather than those inside Israel.”

“Yeah. You can count up the casualties. I’m sorry, you know, but the outside world would count up the casualties and see – you know – that Israel always wreaks its revenge and the revenge it takes is greater than the original – erm – suffering in this war. It does it all the time.”

Impartial? Balanced? Accurate?

Allen is not even pretending to try to meet any of those supposed BBC standards.